News & Politics

Why This Top Facebook Exec Still Gets Dressed Up for Work Every Day

"People are like, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ " says Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief global privacy officer for public policy.

Photo courtesy of subject.

Erin Egan is Facebook’s chief global privacy officer for public policy, its top data-policy envoy to lawmakers and regulators in Washington. The former partner at Covington & Burling grew up in Bethesda and lives there today.

Her Pandemic Setup

“I’m home with my three kids, three cats, and a dog, and I’m separated, so it’s me and this crew. The good thing about my college-age daughter being here is she’s the cat lover; the boys [eighth and tenth grades] are helpful with the dog. We live in Kenwood. We’ve been here the whole time, aside from a stint at a lake house. When you’re in a house with three teens and this zoo of animals, sometimes it can be a little overwhelming. Invariably, we’re fighting for wi-fi and I’ll be like, ‘I’m about to go on a call to brief the board—you guys have to shut down your wi-fi now.’ But overall it’s been great to be at home.”

Her Daily Routine

“My saving grace has been structure. Way back in the day, I was trained in Transcendental Meditation, and I lost it over the years. During the pandemic, it’s been this anchor. My best day is when I wake up and do a Bob Roth TM meditation, then I’m getting people up and organized, then I try to do a Peloton workout or a run. Robin Arzón is my favorite instructor. Mainly because she has all these great ’80s references and she’s intense, but also she has these words of wisdom that help you reflect on the moment and feel grateful for what you have.

Her Work Uniform

“I get fully dressed. Full makeup and everything. People are like, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ I just don’t want my days and nights to merge into one. I like dresses—it’s like a fancy robe. I have a bunch of ba&sh dresses that are super-comfortable. But if I need to do a presentation, I’ll put on a Hugo Boss. I’m still in my comfortable Jimmy Choo tennis shoes.”

Her Worst Day at Work

“My worst days have typically involved realizing that one of my kids needs to get picked up at a time when I have a crazy meeting scheduled, some sort of thing where I’ve dropped a ball. So my child is stuck, or I have to tell people, ‘Sorry, I gotta go on speaker.’ When it comes to pure work, early on in the pandemic some of the hardest days were when we were trying to figure out at Facebook how could we be helpful to frontline workers—how do you share data in a privacy-preserving way? For example, governments are interested to know: If there’s a lockdown in X state, are people staying there? Or, okay, a lot of people are moving this way—what does that mean about potential symptom spread? We couldn’t give out access to detailed information, but we could share aggregated data, and using that you can look at mobility trends. It was super-intense. I was working around the clock.

Her Social-Media Rules for Her Kids

“I don’t monitor their usage that much. I have access to their phones, and I take them at night. My monitoring involves taking away the device, not so much checking what they’re doing on it. It’s hard. You feel sorry for these kids, especially teenagers, 13, 14, 16, who are at that stage where they need connection. It’s hard to monitor which thing they’re on at what point—you have to have guardrails. It’s many, many, many conversations. Whether it’s good or bad, I’ve been working in tech policy for a very long time, and so I’ve been all over them about making sure you know who you’re talking to, think before you share—these golden rules that I’ve had. And they’re going to make mistakes, as we all do, but the point is talking to them about it, making sure they understand consequences and the rules of the road.”

Her Pandemic Management Style

“I’ve noticed the need to be more present. I make myself available for ‘office hours’ every week, where I’m just sitting there [virtually] and people can come talk about cats or whatever it is. A bunch of folks asked for time with me to do a scarves conversation. I have a scarf collection, from my travel, and people know me for always having one on. So we shared scarves stories and best practices, and we had a really fun time. It was like 5 pm on Friday—instead of a happy hour, it was scarves.”

Her and the Camera

“I do tons of video. Many presentations, town halls, one-on-ones, meetings. Every day. I turn the camera on. Very rarely do I have the camera off, if ever. Because it’s so important to be seen. For me, to do my job is to be seen. And I’m an audience reader. I need to see people’s faces. Everyone, keep your cameras on. Please.”

Kristen Hinman
Articles Editor

Kristen Hinman has been editing Washingtonian’s features since 2014. She joined the magazine after editing politics & policy coverage for Bloomberg Businessweek and working as a staff writer for Voice Media Group/Riverfront Times.